The Question For Democrats: Should They Be True To Their Progressive Roots, Or Owned By Wall Street?


Identity crisis…

By Harvey J. Kaye
Common Dreams (10/24/17)

Halloween is coming and fear mongering seems to be the order of the day — not just on the part of Republicans, but apparently no less so on the part of “centrist” and conservative Democrats who are expressing growing anxiety about offending big donors who see politics not as the pursuit of justice but as the pursuit of their interests.

Douglas Schoen, said to have been Bill Clinton’s favorite pollster during his presidency, has taken to the op-ed page of The New York Times to warn center-right party members and friends that ‘all Hell will break loose’ if the Democrats embrace a platform promising “wealth redistribution through higher taxes and Medicare for all” and utilizing democracy to challenge the power of money. Don’t be bewitched by the fantasies of folks such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Schoen counsels, for if you do, the American financial elite will not keep the party’s “coffers full.” Indeed, he argues, “Democrats should strengthen their ties to Wall Street,” for “America is a center-right, pro-capitalist nation.”

“Memories in politics are short,” Schoen wrote. And he wrings his hands over the amnesia that robs people of remembering that the center-right assembled under Bill Clinton enabled him to balance the budget, limit government and protect essential programs “that make up the social safety net.” Leaving behind “that version of liberalism,” Schoen writes, has cost Democrats several elections. He even claims that Hillary Clinton lost in Michigan and Wisconsin in 2016 because she “lurched to the left.”

Yes, memories are short indeed, but they are made even shorter by the likes of Schoen. The horrors he prophesies make it clear that he does not want us to remember. He wants us to forget, and therefore to tame our aspirations for social democracy and an economy that serves everyday people instead of the one percent.

Schoen wants us to forget that Hillary Clinton lost the Upper Midwest not because of her supposed “lurch to the left,” but because many working people could not erase from their minds her lavishly paid Wall Street engagements and her adamant refusal to “release the transcripts” of those flattering speeches to the bankers. To many a Rust Belt voter she was the “Goldman Sachs” candidate, something Schoen would consign to the memory hole.

Throwing away Wisconsin

Moreover, he wants us to forget that she likely lost the blue state of Wisconsin, where I live, because she took it for granted. Defeated here by Bernie Sanders in the primary election, she never returned to Wisconsin to campaign against Donald Trump, who visited the state several times and took advantage of the impact Russian-sponsored ads on Facebook and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s voter suppression drive that deterred thousands of minority voters from turning out.

More critically, Schoen also wants us to forget how Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton turned their backs on the Franklin Roosevelt Democratic tradition and proceeded to turn liberalism into neoliberalism. He wants us to forget how Carter alienated working people, opening the door to the conservative administration of Ronald Reagan, by deregulating key sectors of the economy and instituting, in Carter’s own words, “austerity” in government while corporations were exporting jobs, busting unions and devastating communities.

Schoen would have us forget both how Democrats once upon a time won national and state elections not by deferring to the demands of corporations but by challenging the power of predatory money, enhancing the rights and benefits of working people and directly addressing inequality and poverty.

And Schoen, who has been paid handsomely as a lobbyist to several large corporations (something The New York Times did not point out), would erase from our awareness President Clinton’s sabotage of labor and environmental movements as he pushed the GOP’s pro-corporate North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress, and then proceeded — after declaring “the era of big government is over” in his 1996 State of the Union Address — to encourage ever greater corporate concentration of ownership in telecommunications; inflict “mass incarceration” on individuals (mostly poor) and communities (mostly black); end “welfare as we know it” at the expense of families who needed it, and — egged on by right-wing Republican senators and Wall Street Democrats whom he had named to run economy policy — killed the New Deal law prohibiting commercial banks from speculating with depositors’ money for risky bank activities, thus putting America on the road to the Great Recession of 2009.

Betraying our progressive heritage of challenging predatory money

Most critically, Schoen wants us to forget the democratic roots and achievements of what historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called “the long Age of Roosevelt.” He utterly effaces from the Democratic story the historic and history-making “center-left coalition” that FDR and the New Dealers built — the coalition of tough-minded liberals and progressives, backed by working people in all their diversity, which regulated ruthless capitalism, taxed the rich (who nonetheless still seemed to be living high on the hog), rebuilt the nation’s infrastructure, improved the environment, created social security, empowered labor, rescued and supported farmers, fueled consumer movements and enlarged the “We” in “We the People.”

Here, again, Schoen suffers his own memory loss — of how this coalition led America in the fight against fascism, expanded democracy at home, enacted the GI Bill and launched a postwar economic boom that not only made the nation richer and stronger, but reduced inequality. Then came legislation for civil rights and voting rights, immigration reform, Medicare and Medicaid, environmental protections and laws to make both the workplace and marketplace healthier.

Schoen would have us forget both how Democrats once upon a time won national and state elections not by deferring to the demands of corporations but by challenging the power of predatory money, enhancing the rights and benefits of working people and directly addressing inequality and poverty. He obviously would not have anyone read Listen, Liberal, by Thomas Frank, who described how neoliberal Democrats turned the Party of the People into the Party of Financial and Professional Elites — the 1 Percent.

I’ll wager Schoen actually knows those histories. And yet he wants us to forget them. Why? Because he knows damn well that if we do remember the history that really happened, not the past he is conjuring up, we might well stop fearing. We might in fact start remembering that we are descended from revolutionaries, radicals, socialists, progressives, populists, labor unionists, feminists and civil rights and environmental activists who made America truly great by refusing to bow to the powerful and wealthy and instead fighting to extend and deepen freedom, equality and democracy. The poet Carl Sandburg spoke lyrically of that possibility 100 years ago: When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer forget…

Fox in the hen house

Schoen, who spends a lot of time on Fox News as a commentator, appears to be doing the work of Fox & Friends, of conservatives and neoliberals, and that cabal of fixers, white-shoe lawyers and the political strategists and moneyed crowd of Washington that accelerated America’s race to the financial debacles of 2007-09.

Are we to make the Democratic Party all the more the Party of Wall Street? Sure – and follow this pied piper right to oblivion?

So, dear reader, my recommendation is to celebrate Halloween by getting yourself a Douglas Schoen mask, knocking on neighborhood doors and handing out this homemade sign to anyone who answers: “‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ — Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Don’t forget!!

(Harvey J. Kaye is the Ben & Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and author of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great (Simon & Schuster).)

(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.)

Link to Story

(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to )


Thomas Frank: What Harvey Weinstein Tells Us About The Liberal World


By Thomas Frank
The Guardian (10/21/17)

et us now consider the peculiar politics of Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie producer. Today Weinstein is in the headlines for an astonishing array of alleged sexual harassment and assaults, but once upon a time he was renowned for something quite different: his generous patronage of liberal politicians and progressive causes.

This leading impresario of awful was an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He was a strong critic of racism, sexism and censorship. He hosted sumptuous parties to raise money for the fight against Aids.

This is a form of liberalism that routinely blends self-righteousness with upper-class entitlement.

In 2004 he was a prominent supporter of a women’s group called “Mothers Opposing Bush”. And in the aftermath of the terrorist attack against the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, he stood up boldly for freedom of the press. Taking to the pages of Variety, Weinstein announced that “No one can ever defeat the ability of great artists to show us our world.”

To call this man a hypocrite is to state the obvious. This champion of women is now accused of sexual harassment on an epic scale. This defender of the press was excellent at manipulating it and on one memorable occasion is said to have physically roughed up a reporter asking tough questions.

Perhaps Weinstein’s liberalism was a put-on all along. It certainly wasn’t consistent or thorough. He strongly disapproved of Bernie Sanders, for example. And on election night in November 2008, Weinstein could be found celebratingBarack Obama’s impending victory on the peculiar grounds that “stock market averages will go up around the world.”

The mogul’s liberalism could also be starkly militaristic. …

Read the Rest


Enough! As Tensions Simmer, Poll Shows Majority of Democrats Want Bold Leftward Shift

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (10/25/17)

Amid an ongoing battle within the Democratic National Committee between its progressive wing and the more “centrist” establishment, a Harvard-Harris poll (pdf) published Tuesday found that a majority of Democrats think their party should be embracing grassroots movements, ditching its current leadership, and moving to the left.

The survey found that 52 percent of registered Democratic voters want “movements within the Democratic Party to take it even further to the left and oppose the current Democratic leaders.”

Desire for a leftward move was strongest among young Democrats, who overwhelmingly backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Turn Left!

The Harvard-Harris poll found that 69 percent of Democratic voters between the ages of 18 and 34 believe the party should embrace the leftward shift pushed by grassroots movements urging Democrats to back Medicare for All, free public college tuition, a $15 minimum wage, and a bevy of other progressive goals.

“Those results, taken together, appear to bolster the left’s broad critique of the Democratic Party, which accuses the party of focusing too much on feuding with Trump and not enough on building a coherent vision for the left,” concluded Mic‘s Andrew Joyce.

Some prominent Democrats have in recent weeks indicated that they agree with this critique, and with the majority of their voters.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) angered centrist Democrats back in August when she toldthe audience of a Netroots Nation conference in Atlanta, Georgia that “the Democratic Party isn’t going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill.”

“We’re not going back to the days when a Democrat who wanted to run for a seat in Washington first had to grovel on Wall Street,” Warren added.

Record support among congressional Democrats for Medicare for All and a $15 federal minimum wage also indicates that Democrats are beginning to shift left under pressure from the grassroots.

Consistent with previous surveys, the new Harvard-Harris poll also found that Sanders is far and away the most popular politician in the country, while President Donald Trump and the congressional leadership of both parties remain broadly unpopular.

(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.)

Link to Story